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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/24/20

What Is the Antidote to Greed?

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) May 24, 2020: Most OEN readers know about greed. In the medieval tradition of thought about the seven deadly sins, greed (also known as avarice and covetousness) is one of the deadly sins (also known as the capital vices).

The medieval Italian Dominican philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-1274) reflected on greed. The American then-Dominican theologian the Reverend Dr. Matthew Fox (born in 1940) creatively constructed four conversations with Thomas Aquinas in his 1992 550-page book Sheer Joy: [Four] Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, which Dover Publications has reissued. (In 1993, Fox and the Dominicans parted company, and he became an Episcopal priest.)

Here is the relevant exchange:

AQUINAS: "'The greed for gain knows no limit and tends to infinity.'"

FOX: "It is almost as if material goods tap into our divinity, which is our capacity for spirit or the infinite. One more reason for developing a theology of our divinity, for if we do not have one, then all people are set up to be infinitely voracious consumers" - and greed-obsessed capitalists.

Fox's source for the quote from Aquinas: Aquinas' Summa theologiae (1266-1273).

For the record, the non-Catholics Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) and Mortimer J. Adler (1902-2001) of the University of Chicago included Aquinas' Summa theologiae in the 1952 edition of the Great Books of the Western World.

Now, as Fox knew, Aquinas developed a theology of our divinity. See the following scholarly studies:

(1) A. N. Williams' 1999 book The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas;

(2) Bernhard Blankenhorn's 2015 book The Mystery of Union with God: Dionysian Mysticism in Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas;

(3) Daria Spezzano's 2015 book The Glory of God's Grace: Deification According to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Just to be clear here, theology as such is not the effective antidote to greed. The effective antidote to greed is cultivating one's inner life of participation in divine life - and as a result, living virtuously with help of divine grace. According to Aquinas, the four cardinal virtues involved in living virtuously are (1) moderation (also known as temperance), (2) fortitude (also known as courage), (3) prudence, and (4) justice.

On page 338, Fox quotes Aquinas as saying, "'We are made virtuous by means of laws.'"

Fox's source: Aquinas' Commentary on Aristotle's Ethics (1271).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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